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UK baby boomers facing housing crisis: survey

London

ALMOST half a million baby boomers in Britain are forced to take "drastic measures" to cover their rent, in a sign that people over 50 are finding it increasingly harder to meet housing costs, researchers have found.

A survey by the National Housing Federation (NHF) said more than 40 per cent of private renters in England aged 50 or above had to borrow from their children, take out loans or cut down on food and heating to pay their rent last year.

"There is a huge amount of inequality among this age group," said NHF chief executive David Orr.

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"Unfortunately, the wealthier majority have hidden the reality of hundreds of thousands of people who have never been able to afford a house and are now being failed by the broken housing market."

Britain is experiencing a housing crisis as homebuilding has not kept pace with demand, driving up property prices, with rents rising faster than wages and homelessness soaring.

Baby boomers - or people born between the mid-1940s and mid-1960s - are often considered to be shielded from the effects as the majority of them own homes outright, the NFA, which represents housing associations and social landlords, said.

But over the past 10 years, British home ownership has changed.

A record 1.13 million people aged 50 and over are renting from private landlords now, compared to 651,000 a decade ago, and many are struggling with rising costs and without supportive adaptations, such as handrails and ramps, the NFA said.

At least 17 per cent of those surveyed had to cut down on food and heating, and about 10 per cent were forced to take out a loan, use an overdraft or a credit card to pay the rent, the survey published this week showed.

More than one in 10 private renters have borrowed money from family and friends, while 3 per cent have asked their children for financial help.

As social housing stock in England has decreased, along with government funding for it, many over 50s have been forced to rent from the private sector, where rates are rising the fastest and tenancy contracts are the most insecure.

The rising number of older people in the private rented sector could more than double the housing benefit bill for pensioners by 2060 to 16 billion pounds (S$29 billion) from six billion pounds at present, NHF said.

The NFA called for more social housing construction and said the government should ensure longer, more secure tenancies for people in the private rented sector.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: "This important new report completely blows out of the water the misplaced assumption that the over-50s have universally hit the housing jackpot, showing instead that significant numbers lack safe, warm and suitable accommodation capable of meeting their needs as they age. Tragically, it is clear that our national housing crisis is increasingly an all-age crisis, especially since rising numbers of older people are being forced into the private rented sector where quality is notoriously patchy.

"Decent accommodation is not only essential for our health and well-being, for older people especially, it is a basic human right. However, too many older private renters are in housing that is in disrepair or unfit for habitation, putting their health at risk, or living in fear of exorbitant rent increases or forced eviction."

The housing ministry was not immediately available for comment. REUTERS